See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 John 3:1
Perhaps one of the greatest problems facing Christians these days is a lack of identity. We may lack self-identity which leads to a lack of social identity as a Christian, as a follower of Jesus Christ.
I remember when I was a teenager and beginning to date. The last thing my Dad always said to me as I walked out the door was, “Remember you’re a McDonald.” Sometimes he phrased it as “Sue, remember who you are.
” He wanted me to know that my name mattered. It stood for a certain type of behavior and conduct, which they had taught me.
Scratch a believer and you just might discover someone who is a bit unaware of how their identity as a Christian, a child of God is important. The reason we forget is often related to us not taking our baptism seriously for everyday life. We may think that if we work at proving our status with God by some good works then we have a special status with our heavenly father. Yet the truth is that God claimed us and called us his child when we did nothing to deserve it. God has acted with self-giving love to bring us into an intimate relationship with himself; he has made us his children. God deeply desires a relationship with each of his children so we can become more like his Son, more filled with self-giving love for others.
Since God’s love is beyond our calculation it is very helpful to remember who we are, and whose we are when we go about our daily living. This does not mean that we are going to always act like we are God’s children. We will sin. Yet, no matter how great our weakness or failings, they can’t get in the way of God’s gracious love for us. Jesus has taken away our sins and continues to forgive us because we are his children forever. The day is coming when we, the children of God, will not only know him, but will be like him. So to become like him we need to see ourselves as God’s children.
This truth gives us great confidence, great assurance, and hope. It doesn’t mean that we won’t sin. Sin is a daily battle for us, as it infects our lives. What it does mean is that we are attracted toward becoming Christ-like because of the faith that God gives us by claiming us as His child. I remember one occasion when my parent asked me not to go to a bar. Then came an occasion when my friends were all going to hear a certain band at a bar. I broke my father’s instruction and expectation of behavior and went with my date for the evening to the bar. I tasted my first margarita, and I was under the age required by law. I danced and had a fun time, but in the back of my mind I kept hearing, “Remember who you are.” I regretted it later, because I knew my parents would be disappointed that I had gone against their instructions. When I finally shared my actions with my parents they did not punish me because I had already punished myself with my own regret of disappointing them. I asked them to forgive me and they did. Because we are bathed in the grace of God’s love we try to express that love in our lives even though at times we forget who we are by our thoughts and actions.
Our identity as God’s children rests purely on God’s grace. Our desire to honor our Lord and strive to serve Him is born through that love. Of course we will constantly trip and fall, and forget who we are at times, but then we will recognize that Jesus is standing there beside us, reaching out His hand to help us up, to dust ourselves off, and see if we can allow His grace to reinforce our identity through our behavior.
- As a child did you ever disappoint your parents by something you did or did not do? Did they disown you or did they correct you and continue to love you?
- As a child of God when you know that you have not loved as God loves, do you think that God disowns you or does he stand beside you and help you get back on your feet to walk with him?
- How can you live into your identity as a child of God each day? What would help you do this?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.